CommunityPam's House Blend

Roberts grew up in a 'Sundown Town'

Interesting info. I don’t know if this had any lasting impression on him, living in that environment of restrictive covenants (deeds on file from the 1940s in Long Beach banned the sale or lease of houses to “any person who is not a Caucasian gentile.”).

It would be curious to ask Roberts about that in the hearings. “Sundown Towns” were municipalities that purposely ran whatever blacks that had the misfortune to settle there out of town by physical intimidation, arson, restrictive ordinances (and worse). Highland Park, Texas did not have a home-owning black family until 2003 — that town was home to both Chimpy and Darth Cheney.

It would also be interesting to know how many other prominent political figures have a “Sundown Town” background.

Like many towns across America, the exclusive lakefront community where Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. grew up during the racially turbulent 1960s and ’70s once banned the sale of homes to nonwhites and Jews.

Just three miles from the nearly all-white community of Long Beach, two days of looting and vandalism erupted when Roberts was 15, barely intruding on the Mayberry-like community that was largely insulated from the racial strife of that era.

It was here that the 50-year-old Roberts lived from elementary school until he went away to Harvard in 1973, and that decade — as well as the rest of his life — is receiving intense scrutiny as the Senate gears up for its Sept. 6 confirmation hearings on President Bush’s first Supreme Court nominee.

…Fern Eddy Schultz, the county historian, said the covenants were common for property near Lake Michigan. “They didn’t want particular people to have homes around the lake areas,” Schultz said.

…In Long Beach, nearly all residents were white when Roberts was growing up, a makeup that has changed little in four decades. Today, nearly 98 percent of the town’s 1,500 residents are white. The median income in 1970 topped $18,000, nearly twice that of neighboring communities; today it is more than $71,000, nearly double the state median.

That environment may have sheltered residents from the events of July 1970, when the arrests of three black men over a parking violation outside a bar in Michigan City set off two days of looting, vandalism and fires.

The Associated Press reported in a July 13, 1970, story that a police officer addressed one of those arrested as “boy” and that the man vowed to get some of his friends and “take this town apart.”

The mayor declared a state of emergency, and Indiana National Guard troops were called in to restore order.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding